As the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines returns parts of the world to something resembling normalcy, many industries will take longer to bounce back. 

Just how it will take depends on the speed of vaccines and the ability of governments to contain the spread of the virus. But even at the most optimistic, some sectors — like arts and entertainment — will not return to pre-pandemic levels for several more years. 

According to a report from McKinsey & Company, certain sectors could experience a muted recovery that stymies growth until 2025. Those industries include: arts and entertainment, food services, education services, transportation and manufacturing.   

That’s why it’s so important to support the industries more likely to rebound and create the jobs that will get economies rolling again, said Tom Jakobek, CEO of KBNJ Consulting, Inc., a Canadian consulting firm. 

One of the top contenders in that category is the construction industry.

“There are a lot of advantages to construction right now,” Jakobek said. “For starters, there’s a skyrocketing need for more housing throughout North America. And construction, in general, allows people to work with minimal risk of transmitting the virus. We saw that in 2020, when the construction industry was able to continue working even as most of the world was shut down.” 

A new report released in September 2021 concluded that the construction industry continues to recover quickly from the worst of the pandemic, with continued growth expected over the next few years. 

While the size of the global construction market declined in 2020 from 2019, it was a relatively small dip, from $11,217 billion to $10,741 billion. In 2021, the industry is already exhibiting signs of recovery, according to the report from Research and Markets

The industry could reach a market size of $13,572 billion by 2024, projecting a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6 percent from 2020 to 2024, according to the report, titled “Global Impact of COVID-19 on Construction Industry Market by Type (Residential, Non-Residential, and Heavy & Civil Engineering) and Region (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, South America) – Forecast to 2024”.

Construction has been driven by an increase in automation in public spaces, increased government spending, and a growth in awareness about antibacterial construction materials, the report said. 

The only things preventing further expansion of the industry would be the shutdown of manufacturing facilities, a lack of raw materials, and impact on supply chain and logistics, all of which are expected to restrain industry growth, the report said. 

“Overall, this paints an extremely positive picture of how important construction will be to pulling the global economy out of this pandemic-induced recession,” Jakobek said. 

That trend has held true in Canada as well, Jakobek said, pointing to a recent report from the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA), which found that residential construction in particular was a “key driver” of the Canadian economy in 2020. 

The report, titled Residential Construction in Canada – Economic Performance Review of 2020 with 2021 Insights, looked at new construction and renovations, analyzed the lumber market and other supply chains, and collected info on the labour force and national trends. 

There was a large increase in home renovations a few months into the pandemic, creating more demand for single-family houses and townhomes. 

“The residential construction sector has been doing all it can to respond to the housing needs of Canadians through these challenging times and is providing much needed economic recovery growth through jobs, wages and investment in every community,” said CHBA CEO Kevin Lee. 

The CHBA report also found:

  • There were a total of 1.24 million onsite and off-site jobs in the sector in 2020. About 58 percent of those jobs were in repair and renovation, and 42 percent were in new home construction. 
  • Although the number of jobs dipped in 2020 because of the pandemic, the sector still grew the number of housing starts by year end in 2020 compared to 2019. 
  • The industry created $138.1 billion in economic activity and $81.1 billion in wages, providing economic benefit for Canadians and local economies. 

Given the current forecasts for the industry, it’s fair to say that North Americans can expect construction to play a major role in the coming years, Jakobek said. 

“With an increased demand for housing and expectations of continued government spending, I think the construction industry can look forward to significant market growth for the foreseeable future,” Jakobek said.